A Cambodian court sentenced an Australian nurse and two Cambodians on Thursday to 18 months in prison for their roles in providing surrogacy services in the country, media and other sources in Cambodia said.
The three were convicted on charges of falsifying birth certificates and other documents and acting as intermediaries between adoptive parents and pregnant women.
The Australian woman, Tammy Davis-Charles, 49, was also ordered to pay a fine of four million riels (U.S. $1,000 approx.), while Cambodian nurse Samrith Chanchakrya, 35, and Cambodian man Penh Rithy, 28, were each fined two million riel, or about $500.
Surrogacy is not illegal in Cambodia, though Cambodia’s Ministry of Health issued a temporary ban on the practice in November 2016 pending the drafting of relevant legislation. The three sentenced on Thursday were arrested just weeks later, media sources said.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Ros Sopheap—executive director of the Phnom Penh-based Gender and Development for Cambodia—questioned the fairness of the verdict against the three and the sentences imposed.
“Cambodia does not have a law on surrogacy, though the court used other laws related to the case for this trial,” she said.
“This really calls into question whether justice was done.”
Surrogacy should not be made legal in Cambodia, though, she said, citing controversy over a case in neighboring Thailand where a surrogate mother delivered twins.
“Unfortunately, one of them was born with a birth defect, and the adoptive parents took just one of the children and left the child with the birth defect behind for the surrogate to raise.”
“This has left her in a very difficult situation,” she said.
Thailand passed a law in 2015 banning foreigners from hiring Thai women as surrogates after high-profile cases sparked debate the previous year. Those found guilty of paying surrogates in Thailand can receive a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
In November 2016, Cambodia banned surrogacy arrangements. But four months later, the foreign ministry said the government was preparing to draft a new law to make surrogacy legal “in order to control and prevent Cambodian children who are born via surrogacy from becoming victims,” the international surrogacy group Families Through Surrogacy said in June.
Meanwhile, fertility services and embryo imports remain legal in Cambodia, the group said.
Reported by Maly Leng for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Richard Finney.